University Outing Club proposes outdoor leadership courses

Outdoors loving RSO teams up with leadership major to combine outdoor and leadership skills.

UDOC officers Gugerty, Fox and Dolgos work to create outdoor leadership classes for university credit.


For many, physical activity is an escape from the stress of college courses and credit. The university is now seeking to conjoin the two by incorporating activities, such as backpacking, into the curriculum.

The university’s Outing Club, or UDOC, is working to do just that. The RSO is taking their love for the outdoors and attempting to turn it into a credit opportunity.

In a possible partnership with the leadership program, UDOC is creating a curriculum that incorporates leadership and outdoor skills with help from two professors in the leadership department, says senior Zach Fox.

As president of UDOC, Fox says he and junior Paige Gugerty, head of alumni relations, came up with the idea after working for the Summit program before the school year began. Summit is an outdoor orientation for new students that takes place over the course of five days.

With an emphasis on leadership and teamwork, Summit is directed toward incoming freshmen, Fox says. After working with Summit, Fox and Gugerty sought to replicate their success with Summit in the Outing Club.

“The Outing Club is recreational, not really focused on the leadership aspect,” Fox says.

Tyler Dologos, vice president of UDOC, says that their current hope is to create outdoor trips offered multiple times throughout the semester that would count as one-credit courses.

In addition to gaining course credit for the leadership major, the course would fulfill the Discovery Learning Experience (DLE) requirement, Dolgos says.

“This course would be more feasible and less awkward for students to get DLE credit,” Dolgos says. “Instead of students going abroad or getting an internship to fulfill that credit, this would be a different option that’s fun.”

UDOC officers are primarily considering backpacking and water trips for course credit, Fox says. Because UDOC only leads weekend trips, the course would stay within UDOC’s usual three to four hour travel radius, meaning trips could take place anywhere between New York and Virginia, Fox says.

“It would be an opportunity to come together and learn about leadership in a different setting,” Gugerty says.

Photo Courtesy: Rhiannon Hare
UDOC hopes to incorporate aspects of Summit orientation into the potential curriculum.

Fox says that in outdoor education, leadership opportunities often present themselves naturally as problems arise.

“You work on group dynamic as well as individual growth. It would emphasize what you learn on the trip and how you can bring it back to your life and classes,” Fox says.

While anyone in the leadership major would be able to take the course, UDOC is hoping to target individuals who are less familiar with outdoor activities, Fox says.

“When you are thrown into uncomfortable situations, you tend to learn from each other quicker,” Dolgos says.

Gugerty, a leadership major, has been preparing the course proposal. Gugerty says her experience with outdoor leadership stretches past her work with Summit.

Between her junior and senior year of high school, Gugerty says she took part in Outward Bound, an expedition school and outdoor leadership program. Outward Bound led her to the Sierra Nevada and is similar to what she hopes UDOC’s program will look like, she says.

Gugerty says that she recognized the value of leadership skills when she was called upon to lead her Outward Bound group.

“I realized how important it was, and the impact it had on me,” Gugerty says.

In addition to the experiences with Outward Bound and Summit, Gugerty says UDOC looked at other universities and schools that have similar clubs and programs to what they hope to create.

While their program has not yet been approved, Gugerty says the biggest challenge they endured was the navigating process and working with all of the departments.

Fox says the biggest struggle will come if and when the plan is approved.

“The biggest thing will be making outdoor education a legitimate mode of leadership education,” Fox says. “Every outdoor trip has elements of leadership and every major requires working with others.”

If the program is successful with leadership majors, UDOC is not opposed to expanding the opportunity to students outside of the major, Dolgos says.

“If everything works out, we hope to expand the program to week-long or longer expeditions,” Gugerty says. “Maybe even a spring break or winter break alternative.”

But they do not want to stop there. Dolgos and Fox have big ideas for possible expansion. Fox suggests it could be a possible breadth requirement one day. Dolgos has an even different idea in mind though.

“Maybe down the line, we can expand to an outdoor education major,” Dolgos says.

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